Money, Miles & Mass

2004 was the year I got my $@%@ together … and I desperately need a refresher course.

Backing up … I went to college and graduate school in Washington, D.C., so I never had a reason for a car. I walked or Metroed everywhere and relied on friends for out-of-the-way places, such as Target and Tyson’s Corner (one of my fave malls). When I went home to NJ, I hopped on Amtrak and made the voyage home.

But by 2004, I was getting sick of not having the freedom to get up and “go.” I wanted my own set of wheels. Unfortunately, I know nada about cars and L was still living in El Salvador and my parents live in NJ … so the only other person I’d trust to help me car shop was my dear friend Jason. Though I was expecting just to shop… I snagged an awesome lease deal (thanks to savvy shopping on the last day of the month and some bartering from Jason) and ended up driving home in my new ride.

In retrospect it was a totally impetuous decision, but I loved Black Beauty — my ’04 Honda Civic. I ended up buying her in ’07 when my lease was up and only just traded her in this past December 31, when I got bought (read as: financed) a ’12 Subaru Outback. We shared a lot of memories together, that’s for sure!

Anyway, my 3-yr lease was 36,000, which broke down to 1,000 miles a month. So I had to “budget” my miles … and I did. Some months I drove more, so I’d compensate by using a little more public transportation the next month. It wasn’t always easy, but I struck a balance.

In April of 2004, I joined Weight Watchers where I had a “budget” of sorts, with respect to my daily caloric intake. I latched onto the program and saw results immediately. As with my car’s mileage, some days I went “over” so the next day I’d compensate and eat a little less. It wasn’t always easy, but I struck a balance.

It was around this time that I realized I was 25 years old and needed to be saving more money. As it was, all my savings basically went towards trips to visit L, and we had been talking marriage for a while so I knew I needed to get my stuff together. My biggest problem was I. LOVE. TO. SHOP. I blame my mom entirely for passing along this gene to me because it is, in many ways, irreversible. All I can do is mitigate the monster when it strikes — and that’s what I had to do.

To simply manage this “get-my-@#$#-together” mentality, I devised a mantra I would say over and over again: “MONEY. MILES. MASS.” To reinforce the message, I put it all over — on my mirror in my room, on my desk at work, etc. It was easy to remember and I knew I had three tangible goals in mind that were tied to said mantra.

1. Stop living paycheck to paycheck (MONEY)

2. Stick to my lease’s mileage allotment (MILES)

3. Get down to my goal weight (MASS)

I can’t say I always succeeded, but I definitely made headway in all three areas. But now, eight years later, I find myself desperately needing a refresher course for what worked then, at 25, and how I could apply it to my life now.

What worked then is pretty simple. I took the all-or-nothing approach, and did it all with gusto. I applied this mentality of my stopping chewing-and-spitting behavior, too. After many bumps along the way, I chose pride over guilt and just stopped the madness, point blank, in March 2009 … and I haven’t looked back since. [I won’t say I’m 100% cured — I still emotionally eat from time-to-time, still sometimes feel “guilt” where I needn’t, still over-eat at times … but the ugly behaviors and over-exercising of my past? DONE].

So I know that mentality works for me. It was just a question of hitting rock bottom to DO something about it.  The problem is, at this stage of my life (married, with a daughter and a good job) I can’t realistically get to a rock-bottom place — and don’t want to! — to make the changes I need to make in order to get my @#$ together yet again.

The motivation — for lack of a better word — has to come from somewhere else. From within. The odds aren’t stacked against me this time; I have a good hand in front of me and just need to choose my moves wisely.

I don’t live paycheck to paycheck anymore (having two healthy incomes helps, for sure), but I have a weakness for shopping and spending and expensive lattes and I need to rein it in.

Likewise, I lost all the baby weight plus 3 additional lbs (of the 15 I gained in the 3 yrs before having Maya) … but haven’t made a dent in those 10 lbs I planned to lose before my family’s trip to a tropical place in April.

The “why” to both of these problems is quite simple: I’m spending too much money in the wrong places (as the lovely budget my husband drew up last night shows me …) and I’m eating too much stuff I don’t need.

The solution to both problems is inherently one and the same and seems SO obvious: STOP WASTING MONEY.

I consider myself a pretty bright person but admittedly have no “resistance muscle” to speak of lately.

[Just last night — pre-budgeting discussion — I ordered $18 of peanut butter online. Seriously, I did. It was a total impulse purchase and I know I will have buyer’s remorse tomorrow, but (and this is how I justify decisions in my head, “I read about it at KERF and I’m pretty sure this is the old PB Loco peanut butter I loved only marketed under a new name (exact same flavors) and I’m so curious and they only sell them in shipments of threes ….)” THIS is how my logic works. Ridiculous!]

Anyway, I have come up with several immediate, tangible steps that will help me save money AND lose weight.

1. Instead of moving money into savings when I feel like it, set up recurring transfers (yes, I realize this is a “DUH” move but believe me, it’s a necessary one for me!)

2. Bring breakfast and lunch to work each day — budget for one meal out during the work-week. (This saves money and helps me plan balanced meals better).

3. Cut my latte habit in half — treating myself every other day instead of every day. (This saves money and calories).

4. Reduce impulse purchases — Diet Coke, candy-I-only-eat-a-bite-of-and-toss-anyway, etc.–by carrying $x a week in CASH.

And that’s just to start.

What I realized by writing this post is that ultimately no one else can make these decisions for me except me. So if I succeed, I have no one to congratulate but myself — and if I fail, I have no one to blame but myself. It really is about personal responsibility.h

As a wife and a mother now, I owe it to myself to make 2012 another year where I get my #$#$ together. If not for myself, for my family. Wish me luck!


How about you? Are you in need of a “diet” (money or weight loss or otherwise?) What steps do you take when you realize you absolutely have to do something STAT about it? Do you ease in or go (pardon the expression) balls-to-the-wall?


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